Clinical Practice Guidelines for Delirium Management: Potential Application in Palliative Care Journal Articles uri icon

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  • CONTEXT: Delirium occurs in patients across a wide array of health care settings. The extent to which formal management guidelines exist or are adaptable to palliative care is unclear. OBJECTIVES: This review aims to 1) source published delirium management guidelines with potential relevance to palliative care settings, 2) discuss the process of guideline development, 3) appraise their clinical utility, and 4) outline the processes of their implementation and evaluation and make recommendations for future guideline development. METHODS: We searched PubMed (1990-2013), Scopus, U.S. National Guideline Clearinghouse, Google, and relevant reference lists to identify published guidelines for the management of delirium. This was supplemented with multidisciplinary input from delirium researchers and other relevant stakeholders at an international delirium study planning meeting. RESULTS: There is a paucity of high-level evidence for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions in the management of delirium in palliative care. However, multiple delirium guidelines for clinical practice have been developed, with recommendations derived from "expert opinion" for areas where research evidence is lacking. In addition to their potential benefits, limitations of clinical guidelines warrant consideration. Guidelines should be appraised and then adapted for use in a particular setting before implementation. Further research is needed on the evaluation of guidelines, as disseminated and implemented in a clinical setting, focusing on measurable outcomes in addition to their impact on quality of care. CONCLUSION: Delirium clinical guidelines are available but the level of evidence is limited. More robust evidence is required for future guideline development.


  • Bush, Shirley H
  • Bruera, Eduardo
  • Lawlor, Peter G
  • Kanji, Salmaan
  • Davis, Daniel HJ
  • Agar, Meera
  • Wright, David Kenneth
  • Hartwick, Michael
  • Currow, David C
  • Gagnon, Bruno
  • Simon, Jessica
  • Pereira, Jose

publication date

  • August 2014